Mosquito Spraying Begins As Maryland Battles Zika Virus

Maryland has begun mosquito control to prevent the Zika virus, which can cause serious birth defects, and other diseases.

By June 1, 2017 1:11 pm ET

ANNAPOLIS, MD — With warm temperatures settling in and summer only weeks away, state crews have mapped out plans to spray parts of Maryland with mosquito repellent that should curb the pests that carry Zika and other viruses. Infection with Zika during pregnancy is linked to birth defects in babies, including microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected.

“Zika virus continues to be a major public health concern, and we remain vigilant in our efforts to fight the disease here in Maryland,” said Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder in a news release. “I urge all Marylanders to cooperate with state officials in the event of a Zika response.”

The Department of Agriculture’s Mosquito Control program will be active across the state conducting surveillance and control measures to reduce mosquito numbers. Also involved in the fight against the Zika virus are the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and local health departments. The state health department will respond to any concern about local transmission of the disease — this could include a confirmed human case of Zika — or high levels of mosquito activity.

Zika is a mosquito-borne illness that is characterized by a fever, rash and joint pain. According to the state, only about one out of five people infected with Zika are symptomatic. While the illness typically resolves within a week, some severe cases may require hospitalization.

If there are enough adult mosquitoes present in an area, ag department personnel will use backpack sprayers to apply a pesticide to foliage where mosquitoes rest. The backpack sprayers will replace the truck-mounted ULV foggers used in last year’s response, says the Maryland Department of Agriculture. The backpack sprayers were used last year, but this year they will be used more extensively because they deliver a more targeted, efficient method of wiping out Aedes mosquitoes.

The state this week resumed its routine truck-based ULV fogging program in participating communities. Visit the program’s website for more information.

As of May 24, 2017, there have been 198 cases of Zika virus in Maryland dating back to late 2015; all of the cases were associated with travel to areas where the disease has been actively transmitted. The disease has not been transmitted by mosquitoes in Maryland, but that may change as the Aedes mosquitoes become active in warmer weather, officials said.

The most at-risk population are people traveling to Zika-affected areas, especially pregnant women. Pregnant women are highly discouraged from traveling to Zika-infected areas (Central and South America and the Caribbean).

Zika can also be spread from an infected man to his sex partners. There is also a strong possibility that Zika may can be transmitted through blood transfusions, according to health authorities.

Zika symptoms

In most cases of Zika, there are no symptoms. In a few cases, Zika can trigger paralysis (Guillain-Barré Syndrome).

When present, symptoms are mild and last less than a week. They include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes.There’s no vaccine or specific treatment. Instead the focus is on relieving symptoms and includes rest, rehydration, and acetaminophen for fever and pain. Aspirin and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen should be avoided.

Tips from Maryland’s Bug Guy blog to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Apply mosquito repellent to exposed skin before you go outdoors. He recommends any brand that contains up to 30 percent DEET.
  • Place a small fan on your patio if you eat outdoors. The light breeze created by the fan will greatly reduce the number of mosquitoes flying and biting.
  • Eliminate standing water by cleaning your gutters, dumping your birdbath twice a week, turning over your wheelbarrow, emptying the wading pool, and getting rid of water-filled containers.
  • Add a soil microbe known as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a.k.a. Bti to an aquatic water garden or standing water on your property that could breed mosquitoes. The microbe comes in doughnut-shaped tablets that can be placed in water to kill mosquito larvae.

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